Matt uses his skills behind the scenes in personnel, helping others get where God wants them to go.
When Matt Harper (in the US) started serving in missions, he didn’t move overseas. For 15 years, he has been working behind the scenes—and behind computer screens—in personnel, helping others get where God wants them to go.
“It’s not an exaggeration to say I feel like I’ve served alongside people in OM who are heroes of the faith to me,” he shared. “Many of those people would hate being ‘stuck’ in a home office, but they’re so glad that I’m here. The reality is that if you’re out there, trekking in Southeast Asia, and you’re passionate about that, then you want the person back in the office passionate about supporting you.
“I get to hear about what’s going on in a lot of places. I’m able to serve in my giftedness to make a practical contribution, so I see it being in line with how God wired me and prepared me to do.”
Personal and professional preparation
Over the years, Matt said he excelled in helping other people be effective. He got a degree in education and taught for a few years. When Matt started his graduate program, he met some visiting missionaries who encouraged him to think about how to use training and development in a missions context. Although he was interested, he didn’t have any clear steps forward.
Matt became increasingly involved with missions in his local church—serving on the missions committee, going on short-term trips and volunteering with international students attending colleges close to where his family lived.
“God was growing the desire to serve in some kind of cross-cultural ministry setting,” Matt remembered. His wife encouraged him to follow the Lord’s leading, and they started looking for organizations with needs that matched Matt’s skills.
Little interactions, big wins
Matt spent his first 11 years in OM at the US home office in personnel, before transitioning to his current role with the Caribbean home office, also located in the US. While his position hasn’t been directly related to his degree, “it’s an application of how I feel that I’m wired,” he said. “Really the last 15 years has been coming alongside people, helping them get where they’re going to be effective in their ministry.”
He connects with those he serves through technology, relying largely on video chats and WhatsApp to discover people’s personalities and passions. “Our focus in the Caribbean is raising up workers and resources to go out,” he explained.
Matt’s interactions with people often start as they look for places to serve overseas. The relationship continues as they raise support and prepare to go. Smaller interactions, like giving guidance on a visa situation or helping work through a support issue, also encourage him to keep pressing on. “The big point for me is I’ve been able to serve someone serving on the field” he said.
“When I see someone complete their initial commitment and continue on to serve longer term, that’s a big win for me.”
By embracing his role and supporting others, Matt is contributing to the kingdom of God. “If we were all eyes or thumbs or whatever, there would be gaps because there’s just a need for that support function within the organization,” he explained, referencing the picture of the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12:14-20. “We’re called to be faithful and use the gifts God’s given us.”